Have you been thinking of performing a 3D printing with rubber, and you have not been able to? The truth is, it is not possible to print with rubber because a rubber can’t convert to a liquid state, which is a prerequisite to print with 3D. However, you can make use of rubber filaments and achieve the desired results because they are flexible, durable, and can be compressed just like rubber.
If you have been wondering what rubber filaments are and how they work, then you are in the right place.
This article focuses on what rubber filament is, the best rubber filament you can print with, a step by step process of 3D printing with rubber filament as well as safety precautions.
Let’s dive right in!
Rubber filaments are rubber-like materials that can be used in place of rubber when 3D print because they possess similar qualities to rubber. There are different materials with rubber characteristics, but the two major ones are flexible filaments and flexible resins.
Flexible filaments are rubber-like materials that can be used as a substitute for rubber in 3D printing. They are composed of Thermoplastics Elastomers (TPE) or Thermoplastic Polyurethane. Just like rubber, they can be stretched and flexed easily because of their elastic qualities.
However, rubber filament elasticity is based on the chemical formulation and the amount of TPE present in it. For instance, the flexibility of a door handle made from rubber is different from a rubber phone case or a rubber band.
It is, therefore, important that you use the appropriate measure of chemical formulation and TPE suitable for the purpose you want to use it for when intending to perform a 3D printing with a flexible filament.
This is simply using flexible filament to create solid objects in three dimensions. To effectively do this, there are best practices one needs to engage in. When you want to perform a 3D printing with flexible filaments, there are safety precautions you must adopt to achieve the best results. They include:
Print slowly: Most times, the safety precautions needed to be carried out are based on your 3D printer. This is because the rate at which 3D printers function is based on the degree of elasticity of the material you are using. That is, the higher the rate of elasticity of a material, the more the efficiency of your 3D printer reduces. It is, therefore, important to print slowly to achieve the best results.
Right environment temperature: It is important to run your 3D printing at the right temperature to achieve the best printing results. If the temperature of the environment is not right (perhaps it’s too hot or too cold), you may achieve bad printing results. To set the right temperature, start with the recommended temperature, and stick to it throughout your printing process.
Use Direct Extruders and Not Bowder Extruders: Although both extruders perform similar duties, a Direct Extruder is highly recommended when 3D printing with flexible filament. This is because Direct Extruder allows printing to be done easily and more effectively since it requires the use of less torque, and there is a shorter distance between the hot end and cold end in a 3D printer.
Turn off Retraction: Ensure to turn off retraction during your 3D printing process because turning on retraction can bend filaments.
Keep the Print Head Enclosed inside Model: Due to the elastic nature of flexible filaments, the flexible filaments have higher tendencies of oozing out if not properly controlled. It is, therefore, very important that you keep the Print Head enclosed to prevent the rubber filaments from oozing out.
There are several types of rubber filaments available in the market; however, when performing a 3D printing, it is important to go for quality rubber filament to avoid bad printing results. Below are the five best rubber filaments you can trust for 3D print.
Ninja Tek has widely proclaimed itself as the best brand of flexible filament for obvious reasons. Ninja Tek has a wide range of options to offer with high and durable quality.
You can decide to choose the APE or APU variants in different colors depending on what works best for you. These features make it possible to explore widely because you have a wide range of options to pick from.
If you are just learning how to print 3D with flexible filaments, then Cheetah is highly recommended for you. Cheetah is a subset of Ninja Tek, and it focuses mainly on making the printing process a lot easier for users. With Cheetah flexible filaments, you can be more creative in the production of your 3D rubber prints because it offers a wide range of colors to choose from.
The Soft PLA is a rubber filament made by Matterhacker, with the exact characteristics of rubber. Soft PLA makes your printed object bend just like rubber does. As a filament formulated with natural properties, it is as flexible as co-polymer materials.
Soft PLA rubber filament is highly recommended if you want to print tires, toys, machine parts, and springs.
Fillamentum is a rubber filament made by the Flexfill product line. The distinct quality of Fillamentum is that it enhances a faster printing speed with a great retractability level.
Taulman Plasticized Copolyamide (PCTPE)
The Taulman Plasticized Copolyamide (PCTPE) is a TPE that enables you to print with high quality. The PCTPE also has a nylon feel that ensures that the end result of your 3D print has a smooth and nylon-like feel.
The PCTPE has the ability to make your printing process a lot faster because it is less elastic than other rubber filament options.
Flexible resins can also be used as an alternative to rubber to achieve similar results. These flexible resins are highly recommended for usage if you want to print items like stamps, gaskets, and custom grips.
Flexible resins are considered the best alternative for rubber in 3D printing because they have the ability to bounce back to their original shape and can be compressed just like rubber.
The major downside to flexible resins is that they can only be operated on specific types of 3D printers, which make them quite selective.
There are three major groups of flexible resins; they include:
Formlabs flexible resins
This is particularly designed to work under stressful and testing conditions. The Formlabs flexible resin possesses a shore hardness of 80A and is commonly used to produce parts that can be easily compressed and bent with a resolution around the range of 50 to 100 microns.
XyzPrinting flexible resins
The XYZPrinting flexible resins were designed purposefully to work with the Nobel 1.0A printer. It is widely known to be highly flexible and resilient, among other resins. They are also known to be very bendable whenever they are subjected to great forces due to their high flexibility.
Type D Pro Flex
The Type D Pro-Flex is eboxy-based and was designed by DruckWege. It possesses high bending resistance qualities, which makes it suitable for 3D printers with DLP/UV light sources.
Can one 3D print rubber?
It is not possible to 3D print rubber because rubber cannot become fluid, which is necessary to carry out 3D printing.
What are flexible filaments?
Flexible filament is a combination of plastic and rubber materials. It has the features of rubber and if can bended and flexed easily.
What are the types of flexible filaments?
Although there are many materials with flexible characteristics, the two major types of flexible filament include TPU Thermoplastic Polyurethane and TPE Thermoplastic Elastomer. They are made from a mix of plastic and rubber and contain the basic characteristics of the rubber.
Why is my resin flexible?
It is normal for resins to be flexible even after they are completely dry. This is common to epoxy resins, which are usually flexible when poured on a thin layer.
What can one do with 3D printers?
There are many things that can be done with a 3D printer; they include printed acoustic guitar, camera lens, toys, and many more.